Ten Gems In Mental Health Literature

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the wonderful The Broke and The Bookish. This week’s list is a hidden gems list. Now, these books aren’t so much hidden, but I decided they needed some airing on my blog this week because they are gems. I love reading books that centre around mental health/illness and think they’re worth airing even if some of them are quite popular!

Click on the book image to get to the Goodreads page for the book! 🙂

The Silver Linings Playbook- Matthew Quick

The Silver Linings Playbook

This book is told in such a unique voice. I think this book is much deeper than the film. I enjoyed Matthew Quick’s portrayal of Pat.

Lighter Than My Shadow- Katie Green

Lighter Than My Shadow

This is a hefty book. It’s huge and it’s quite heavy going in its nature. It’s about Katie’s struggle with an eating disorder.

Am I Normal Yet?- Holly Bourne

Am I Normal Yet? (The Spinster Club, #1)

I absolutely adored this book. Holly Bourne is such a beautiful writer and she represented mental illness wonderfully. This is such an addictive YA read.

Reasons To Stay Alive- Matt Haig

Reasons to Stay Alive

I adore Matt Haig’s raw honesty in this book. There are some dark moments, but this book is hopeful.

My Heart and Other Black Holes- Jasmine Warga

My Heart and Other Black Holes

There are some incredibly poignant moments and memorable sections in this book. I found it incredibly powerful to read.

Belzhar- Meg Wolitzer

Belzhar

I really enjoyed this book despite it having quite mixed reviews. It’s unique and wonderfully written.

Perfect Escape- Jennifer Brown

Perfect Escape

I enjoyed reading this book which centres around a girl experiencing her brother’s problems with OCD. It was interesting to read about the impact it can have on a family member.

The Shock Of The Fall- Nathan Filer

The Shock of the Fall

This book doesn’t hold back when exploring mental illness. It’s such an intense, powerful read.

Undone- Cat Clarke

Undone

This book was so moving. It’s ending actually put a lump in my throat.

Highly Illogical Behaviour- John Corey Whaley

Highly Illogical Behavior

This book was absolutely stunning. I was blown away by the writing. I shall definitely be reading more from John Corey Whaley.

What are your hidden gems this week? Feel free to leave a link to your post and I’ll stop by!

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Banned Books #38 Thirteen Reasons Why

banned books

Welcome to this month’s Banned Books post! This month, we read Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.

Thirteen Reasons Why

Synopsis:

You can’t stop the future.
You can’t rewind the past.
The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play.

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker–his classmate and crush–who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why. 

Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.

First published: 2007
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2012 (source)
Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group.

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: I always think of this book as a really recent release (maybe because of the series released on Netflix?) so I was really surprised when I saw that it had been originally published in 2007. Ten years is really not much time for attitudes to change in such a drastic way so my answers to this and the next question are going to be the same but I will go into some of the reasons why this book has been challenged/banned. Obviously, the drugs/alcohol/smoking thing does happen in the book but it’s never portrayed in a particularly “things to do that are cool,” way  and, to be honest, I think you’re going to be hard pressed to find a young adult book that doesn’t have an element of that lifestyle. Occasionally, I think it’s almost like a rite of passage that (some) teenagers have to go through to experiment/push boundaries and then decide that these things really aren’t for them. I certainly don’t see why this would be a good reason to challenge/ban the book.

CHRISSI: I read this book back in 2014, several years after it had been released. I had heard all of the hype around it and seen so many reviews of it around the blogosphere. So I knew before I read it that I was getting into quite a contentious read. I can understand why this book would be challenged as it has some particularly sensitive subject matter. However, should it be banned? In my opinion, no. There are television programmes that are contain much worse subject matter. Nearly every book for young adults contain ‘bad’ things as these are things that young people experience. I do understand that this book could be potentially triggering to some, but I believe it is a book that should be available. We should trust young people to make their own choices when it comes to reading a book like this. If literature is out there like this it starts a conversation. We need those conversations and young people to be able to feel like they can be heard and understood.

How about now?

BETH: See previous answer! I also feel the same way with the “sexually explicit” reason. There are a couple of horrific moments in the novel that make for uncomfortable reading and may pose a few trigger warnings for anybody particularly sensitive to those topics but again, it really isn’t done in a gratuitous fashion and isn’t really heavy on the intimate details so again, not a great reason for banning the book outright – perhaps a gentle warning on the cover would suffice? Finally there is the element of suicide which is the main and probably most shocking element of the novel. To be honest, I’m not sure what to say about this. It’s never going to be easy reading about a young person killing themselves and all the reasons why they did it but I don’t think this book in any way glamorises suicide. In fact, it may encourage suicidal teenagers to talk about how they are feeling with someone before they try to harm themselves if used in the right way.

CHRISSI: I feel the same way. This book does centre around suicide and I know that’s not a nice thing to read about. It does make for uncomfortable reading. The sexually explicit content is also uncomfortable to read, but it’s not something that I think authors should avoid. As I said before, conversations need to be had. I personally don’t think that the author glamorised suicide.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I really enjoyed this book. I had already heard mixed opinions about it from my sister and when I read the novel I could completely see where she was coming from. Hannah’s voice didn’t come across in the best way at times and I really wasn’t sure about her method of using tapes to tell people why she killed herself. However, then Chrissi watched the Netflix series and urged me to do the same. I watched the first episode earlier and thought it was pretty great (I understand there’s been a lot of controversy around this series too but as I said, I’ve only watched the first episode so far!). I think it’s like most hard-hitting books really. In the hands of more sensitive people who have issues with the topics discussed it might not be advisable but in the right hands, I think it could also help a lot of people too.

CHRISSI: I actually enjoyed this book more the second time reading it. I remember having some issues with Hannah’s voice when I read it the first time. She frustrated me a lot and I wanted her to do more for herself. I still had the same issue with Hannah’s voice, but I felt I could understand Hannah more this time around. I think over time I have come to understand mental health more. I think the Netflix series is absolutely fantastic. I know they changed some parts of the book, but I really appreciated how it was handled. It was uncomfortable viewing, just like the book is uncomfortable reading. As I’ve mentioned throughout this post though, both the book and the TV series are encouraging conversations and that’s what is vitally important to me.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

By Your Side

By Your Side

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Synopsis:

When Autumn Collins finds herself accidentally locked in the library for an entire weekend, she doesn’t think things could get any worse. But that’s before she realizes that Dax Miller is locked in with her. Autumn doesn’t know much about Dax except that he’s trouble. Between the rumors about the fight he was in (and that brief stint in juvie that followed it) and his reputation as a loner, he’s not exactly the ideal person to be stuck with. Still, she just keeps reminding herself that it is only a matter of time before Jeff, her almost-boyfriend, realizes he left her in the library and comes to rescue her.

Only he doesn’t come. No one does.

Instead it becomes clear that Autumn is going to have to spend the next couple of days living off vending-machine food and making conversation with a boy who clearly wants nothing to do with her. Except there is more to Dax than meets the eye. As he and Autumn first grudgingly, and then not so grudgingly, open up to each other, Autumn is struck by their surprising connection. But can their feelings for each other survive once the weekend is over and Autumn’s old life, and old love interest, threaten to pull her from Dax’s side?

Thoughts:

Kasie West is one of those authors I go to, when I know I want to read something that’ll leave me happy and it won’t be too taxing to read. I hope that doesn’t sound like an insult, as it’s not intended that way! Kasie West’s books are just easy to devour and I have always enjoyed them. By Your Side wasn’t my favourite Kasie West book, but it was still a decent contemporary read.

By Your Side centres around Autumn. One day, Autumn finds herself trapped inside a library for a long weekend. Autumn isn’t alone. She’s trapped with Dax. Autumn doesn’t know a lot about Dax, but she’s heard rumours that he’s trouble. Autumn has no way of getting out, her bag is in the car with her friend, Dax’s phone is dead… so they just have to stay in the library and live off vending-machine food. Dax doesn’t want anything to do with her, but after a while they begin to warm to one another. After Autumn finds out information about her friend, she experiences a panic attack. Dax manages to get her help. The story follows Autumn after she gets out of the library. Will her connection with Dax last?

I have mixed feelings about anxiety in this book. First of all, I must say I love it when a character with anxiety is represented. I suffer from anxiety myself and appreciate its representation, especially in YA. I loved how supportive Autumn’s family were of her anxiety. I loved that her mum encouraged her to take mental health days and was constantly checking on Autumn’s feelings and emotions. Yes for supportive parents in YA!

On a more negative note, I felt like Autumn’s anxiety wasn’t portrayed in the best way that it could be. I totally understand that anxiety can take many shapes and forms, but I didn’t buy into Autumn’s anxiety. I also couldn’t believe that Autumn’s friends wouldn’t notice she had anxiety? Sure, she was medicated, but in my experience, even with medication it’s still there…just a dialled down version. My friends can still tell that I’m anxious in situations.

Another reason why I didn’t rate this any higher was because not all of the characters felt real enough to me. I felt like I didn’t know nearly enough about Dax to invest in their relationship.

I think this is a book where you have to suspend your disbelief (who gets locked in a library without phones in there…?) and just enjoy for what it is! A cute romance that doesn’t take long to read.

Would I recommend it?
Yes!

Whilst this isn’t my favourite Kasie West book, it doesn’t take long to read, just suspend your disbelief! 

The Disappearing Girl

The Disappearing Girl

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Kayla Marlowe is slowly vanishing…

Last year, Kayla’s world imploded. Her beloved father died, leaving her alone with a narcissistic mother who is quick to criticize her daughter’s appearance. During her winter break from college, Kayla’s dangerous obsession with losing weight begins.

Kayla feels like her world changes for the better overnight. Being skinny seems to be the key to the happiness she has desperately been seeking. Her mother and friends shower her with compliments, telling her how fantastic she looks. Kayla is starving, but no one knows it.

Cameron Bennett explodes into Kayla’s life. He’s sexy and kind—he has every quality she has been looking for in a guy. As Cameron grows closer to Kayla and learns of how far she’s willing to go to stay thin, he becomes desperate to save her.

Kayla’s struggles with anorexia and bulimia reach a breaking point and she is forced to confront her body image issues in order to survive. She wonders if Cameron could be the one to help heal her from the pain of her past.

Thoughts:

I have had this book on my TBR for what seems like the longest time. I recently came across it and decided that it needed to be read this summer. The Disappearing Girl isn’t an easy read. It’s about anorexia and bulimia. Whilst it was a challenge to read because of its subject matter, it was an incredibly important and well written read.

The Disappearing Girl centres around Kayla. She is grieving after the death of her father who she found after he had a heart attack. Kayla and her sister, Lila were left with her mother. Her mother who was very obsessed with image. She constantly makes comments about the way Kayla and Lila look. Her comments made me cringe at times. She picked and picked away at her children giving them very low self-esteem. It wasn’t hard to hate their mother. She was so terrible to her children! Kayla starts to diet which brings with it a dangerous obsession with food. At the start of the weight loss, things are going well. She’s getting compliments and she’s landed herself a beautiful boyfriend. However, things soon get very serious and spiral out of control.

I thought Heather Topham Wood really explored the eating disorder very well. I felt like I was inside Kayla’s mind. I could understand why she felt the way she did because of her mother’s comments. I could feel that she was frustrated with people interfering with her diet. Yet at the same time, I was torn because I couldn’t believe what she was doing to herself.

This isn’t a long book, but it packs one hell of a punch! It’s brutal in its honesty of what an eating disorder can do to a person. It’s not just the person suffering from the eating disorder that’s affected. It was clear that everyone surrounding Kayla was affected by her behaviour. Even her mother… eventually.

I think this is such an important book to read for teens, adults and parents alike. It makes you think about mental health and just how much comments can hurt others.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A quick, but brutally honest read about eating disorders!

Damage

Damage

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously read by the same author:

Synopsis:

Outwardly confident, skater girl Gabi cannot move past a traumatic incident – and turns to self harm to take away the pain.

Thoughts:

I absolutely adore Eve Ainsworth’s work because she writes about hard-hitting subjects. I was excited to get my hands on it. With Damage Eve explores the main protagonist’s slide into self-harm.

Gabi, the main protagonist, is suffering from grief after the loss of her grandfather. Gabi’s home life is a bit of a mess. Her parents own a pub and don’t seem to have much time for her. Her relationship with her mother is strained. Gabi begins to self-harm as a release from the pain that she’s feeling inside. Cutting herself gives Gabi short relief from her struggles. Gabi knows she shouldn’t be hurting herself, but can’t help it.

I thought this book was fascinating because as a reader, we got to see Gabi’s slide into self-harm. It didn’t start with self-harm, we saw the spiral. It certainly made me understand why Gabi felt like there was no way out. As a reader, we don’t have to work out Gabi’s reasons, it is made clear.

This book is intriguing to read because it’s not just Gabi that’s ‘damaged’.  Almost every single character is flawed in some way. They all have their own issues and whilst not all of them are explored or resolved, it makes every character inherently human.

I don’t think this is the best book on characters that self-harm, but it is still a decent read and it doesn’t take long to read at all! It’s worth picking it up.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

A decent read with some very realistic characters!

Countless

Countless

How did I get it?:
NetGalley- thanks to Bloomsbury

Synopsis:

When Hedda discovers she is pregnant, she doesn’t believe she could ever look after a baby. The numbers just don’t add up. She is young, and still in the grip of an eating disorder that controls every aspect of how she goes about her daily life. She’s even given her eating disorder a name – Nia. But as the days tick by, Hedda comes to a decision: she and Nia will call a truce, just until the baby is born. 17 weeks, 119 days, 357 meals. She can do it, if she takes it one day at a time …

Heartbreaking and hopeful by turns, Karen Gregory’s debut novel is a story of love, heartache and human resilience. And how the things that matter most can’t be counted. Perfect for fans of Lisa Williamson, Non Pratt and Sarah Crossan.

Thoughts:

I find books that centre around mental health really intriguing, so I was eager to get to reading Countless. I thought Countless was an incredibly established debut novel. I couldn’t put it down!

Countless is about Hedda, our main character, who suffers from anorexia. Pretty much from the offset, we find out that Hedda is pregnant. We experience Hedda’s battle with what to do about pregnancy. Hedda decides to keep the baby, but realises that she’ll have to start eating to keep the baby healthy.

Countless isn’t necessarily an easy book to read, but I think it’s an important one. Karen Gregory’s writing really made me sympathise with Hedda. I wanted her to pull through and get better both for her baby and herself. I liked that it wasn’t easy for Hedda. I felt like this made the book incredibly realistic. A person suffering from anorexia doesn’t get better overnight. It’s a battle.

I think that Hedda is a very well written character. I felt that she developed so much throughout the course of the story. She was stubborn and strong-willed, but at the same time determined to do right by her child. The only thing that really bugged me about Hedda was her mother! I understand that it must be incredibly hard to have a child that suffers from anorexia, but her mother’s attitude towards Hedda frustrated me on more than one occasion!

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and think it’s such an important read.  I thought that the representation of mental illness was outstanding. It is a painful, emotional but incredibly sensitive read.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A fantastic debut with some strong character development!

The Half Life Of Molly Pierce

The Half Life of Molly Pierce

How did I get it?:
I borrowed it from Luna!

Synopsis:

You take it for granted. Waking up. Going to school, talking to your friends. Watching a show on television or reading a book or going out to lunch.

You take for granted going to sleep at night, getting up the next day, and remembering everything that happened to you before you closed your eyes.

You live and you remember.

Me, I live and I forget.

But now—now I am remembering.

For all of her seventeen years, Molly feels like she’s missed bits and pieces of her life. Now, she’s figuring out why. Now, she’s remembering her own secrets. And in doing so, Molly uncovers the separate life she seems to have led…and the love that she can’t let go.

The Half Life of Molly Pierce is a suspenseful, evocative psychological mystery about uncovering the secrets of our pasts, facing the unknowns of our futures, and accepting our whole selves

Thoughts:

I borrowed this book from Luna over at Luna’s Little Library ages ago and have only just got around to reading it. I had heard mixed reviews about it, but like always, I was willing to give it a go. What I will say is that it can be slightly confusing but it’s really good at the same time- so stick with it.

The story centres around Molly who has regular blackouts. She has huge gaps of time missing from her life. Everyone around her is being cagey and Molly doesn’t know who to turn to.I was so intrigued by this story. I wanted to know what was going on with Molly. I can’t imagine feeling like you’re missing chunks of your life.

I found the writing to be incredibly gripping but I can imagine that it might frustrate others. I personally couldn’t put the book down. I was desperate to find out what on earth was going on. I thought Katrina Leno cleverly pieced everything together. It was an interesting concept that I don’t want to spoil!

Molly is easy to like and I wanted everything to turn out well. She’s a complex character with issues and I always like to read about someone who struggles but is so determined to come out of the other side. This is so true for Molly!

If you’re looking for a book with resolution then this isn’t a book for you. There are some unanswered questions and some plot holes, but all in all I thought it was a fantastic read. I shall certainly be reading more from this author!

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A fantastic, if confusing read!